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The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
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The Lace Reader (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Brunonia Barry

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2,8502522,037 (3.54)491
Member:smallwonder56
Title:The Lace Reader
Authors:Brunonia Barry
Info:Flap Jacket Press (2007), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The Lace Reader: A Novel by Brunonia Barry (2006)

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English (248)  Spanish (2)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  English (255)
Showing 1-5 of 248 (next | show all)
Our main narrator, Towner Whitney- real name Sophya- starts the book by telling us she’s a liar and to never trust her word. After a self-imposed exile, she has returned to Salem from the west coast because her aunt Eva is missing. She is just barely recovering from a hysterectomy, and not up to doing much. She doesn’t get much rest, though, as events go south rapidly. Eva turns up dead, the “Calvinists”- followers of Towner’s horrible father Calvin Boynton, who oppose the witches who have proliferated in Salem- are getting out of control, a teenaged girl who was involved with Boynton has been beaten by the Calvinists and vanished, and Towner is starting to get involved with Rafferty, the police man who was investigating Eva’s disappearance.

A lot of the story is told via a journal/story Towner wrote while in a psychiatric institution after her twin sister’s suicide and in other flashbacks, as well as short spans from other POVs. Witchcraft is real, and the Whitney women have the ability to scry using the Ipswich lace which is made by the abused women of a safe house on an island- a historic craft revived by Towner’s mother. Towner can also read minds- mostly unwillingly.

This is a hard book to review without giving away too much. There is a big twist at the ending. There are clues scattered throughout the story, things that at times I thought were things that were wrong but escaped the final editing. The mystery isn’t really about Eva’s death or the pregnant teenager disappearing, it’s about Towner’s past. I enjoyed the story and couldn’t put it down, but found it hard to follow with all the jumps from past to present. Having an unreliable narrator doesn’t help. I had to reread parts, especially the ending, to try and figure it all out. You really have to remember what’s been said earlier in the story to try and keep up. I thought the twist at the ending- which many reviewers have called reminiscent of ‘Sixth Sense’- was rather brilliant. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Dec 4, 2016 |
did not finish ( )
  lindawwilson | Nov 9, 2016 |
My book club chose this book for October 2016. I understand this book has made quite a stir and garnered quite a few rave reviews. I can't say I am about to include my review in the rave category.

Right up front Towner Whitney (born as Sophya but adopted the nickname for some reason not really explained in the book) admits that she lies all the time. So we have an unreliable narrator telling us a story about her family and events that took place and take place in the town of Salem Massachusetts (yes, that Salem with the witches). Towner grew up in Salem but left to live in California and has not be back since. She is drawn back by the disappearance of her great-aunt Eva with whom she lived at one time. Eva is a lace reader which is a person who tells fortunes by reading a piece of lace. The lace is made by women on Yellow Dog Island where Towner's mother May operates an abused women's shelter and lace factory. Towner was a twin but her sister Lyndley was given away to May's childless sister, Emma, so Towner and Lyndley only saw each other in the summertime when the aunt, her husband Cal and Lyndley returned to the island. Then one summer Lyndley killed herself and Towner ended up in a mental asylum. When she was released she went to California which was, she says, as far away as she could get from Salem without falling into the ocean. Now she is back and the disappearance of her aunt is the catalyst for events which will cause her to re-examine her life.

One of the problems I had with the book is the switching from first person to third person at times. A more able writer would have been able to keep the one viewpoint throughout a book. The fact that I noticed it when I don't usually remember whether a book is told in first, second or third person shows it was clumsily done. Another issue was the climax which devolved into a horror film type of scene with witches and arsonists and beatings. And finally I felt that the ending left too many gaps in Towner's story. I can't go into the details without spoiling the book but it will certainly be a point of discussion when we meet for our book club. ( )
  gypsysmom | Nov 6, 2016 |
Totally not what I was expecting. I thought this was going to be one of those slow family/friendship quasi-romance summer beach reads. While there is a romance element to the story, I found this to be more of a quick reading suspense story. Barry’s use of an unreliable narrator, shifting reality/dream sequences, Gothic atmosphere, an eccentric family and some interesting modern day parallels to Salem’s witch trials history made this a near perfect read for me. I love how Barry uses lace as the medium for the mind readers/fortune tellers of this story, imbuing the lace with a spiritual connection, kind of like Ojibwe dreamcatchers, meant to filter out bad dreams. The addition of the Calvinists, a religious group that admonishes the modern ‘witches’ of Salem and Towner’s family connection to Cal, the leader of the religious group, is perfect tinder for fueling the story.

If it hadn’t been for what I felt was a rather sub-par ending after such a great suspense-building climax, this would have been a 5-star read for me. Even so, I still found this one to be an excellent mystery/suspense read and a stunning debut novel. Brunonia Barry has now been added to my “must read” authors list.

As a word of warning, the story does contain some scenes of domestic violence that some readers may want to avoid. ( )
  lkernagh | Jun 28, 2016 |
Fast paced, a bit confusing at first, but it makes you run to the end. That means you need to re-read it several times!! ( )
  winterslights | Jun 12, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 248 (next | show all)
For 15 år siden, da Towner Whitneys liv ble lagt i grus, sverget hun på to ting: At hun aldri skulle sette sine ben i hjembyen Salem igjen. Og at hun aldri mer ville lese i kniplinger. For Towner har arvet denne sjette sansen, den mange av Whitney-klanens kvinner er utstyrt med, den som gjør dem i stand til å spå andres skjebne.
Det er bare ett eneste menneske som kan få Towner tilbake til Salem: Grandtante Eva - den beste kniplingleseren av dem alle. Nå er den gamle kvinnen sporløst borte. Kan Towner finne sannheten om familiens dypt bevarte hemmeligheter i Evas forlatte hus?

"Kniplingenes hemmelighet" foregår i fargerike Salem, byen som er berømt for fortidens utallige heksebål. Historien om Towner favner vidt og er spenningsroman, slektskrønike, historisk skildring og magisk fortelling - men først og fremst er det en sterk og varm beretning som fanger leseren fra Towners første, skjebnesvangre ord: Mitt navn er Towner Whitney. Nei, det er ikke helt sant. I virkeligheten er fornavnet mitt Sophya. Tro aldri på det jeg sier. Jeg lyver i ett sett. Jeg er en gal kvinne - dette siste er san
added by KirstenLund | edithttp://www.aschehoug.no (Feb 26, 2011)
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brunonia Barryprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bresnahan, AlyssaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandberg, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The Lace Reader must stare at the piece of lace until the pattern blurs and the face of the Seeker disappears completely behind the veil. When the eyes begin to fill with tears and the patience is long exhausted, there will appear a glimpse of something not quite seen. In this moment an image will begin to form . . . in the space between what is real and what is only imagined. --The Lace Reader's Guide
Dedication
To my wonderful husband, Gary, and to my sister-in-law Joanne's magical red hair
First words
My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.
Quotations
He was worse than a Starbucks snob, but he didn't tell her that. He didn't even drink Starbucks coffee. Used to. Then, last year, his daughter had saved up her allowance and bought him a French press for Christmas, and now he couldn't drink his coffee any other way.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Towner Whitney, descended from a line of mind readers and fortune tellers, returns to Salem, Massachusetts to recover from several traumas and discovers that her great-aunt Eva has suspiciously drowned, and local cop John Rafferty looks into the mystery while falling for Towner.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061624764, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2008: Brunonia Barry dreamt she saw a prophecy in a piece of lace, a vision so potent she spun it into a novel. The Lace Reader retains the strange magic of a vivid dream, though Barry's portrayal of modern-day Salem, Massachusetts--with its fascinating cast of eccentrics--is reportedly spot-on. Some of its stranger residents include generations of Whitney women, with a gift for seeing the future in the lace they make. Towner Whitney, back to Salem from self-imposed exile on the West Coast, has plans for recuperation that evaporate with her great-aunt Eva's mysterious drowning. Fighting fear from a traumatic adolescence she can barely remember, Towner digs in for answers. But questions compound with the disappearance of a young woman under the thrall of a local fire-and-brimstone preacher, whose history of violence against Whitney women makes the situation personal for Towner. Her role in cop John Rafferty's investigation sparks a tentative romance. And as they scramble to avert disaster, the past that had slipped through the gaps in Towner's memory explodes into the present with a violence that capsizes her concept of truth. Readers will look back at the story in a new light, picking out the clues in this complex, lovely piece of work. --Mari Malcolm

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers has returned to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, for rest and relaxation. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived, however, when her aunt drowns under mysterious circumstances.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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